Picking The Right Future Employee

In today’s economy, organizations are seeking every opportunity they can to reduce costs and increase margins. Marketing plans, purchasing strategies, and asset management are typically three of the most common ways to increase profits. Unfortunately, the one item that costs ag retailers hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars each year is often overlooked. That item is “bad hires” — employees that just don’t live up to their expectations.

In some cases, organizations will extend job offers to candidates that may not have all the skills, as it’s tough to get the right candidate to relocate to the community. Even more often, hiring managers interview several candidates and pick what they feel is the standout candidate — only for that candidate to stand out as a poor employee.

How can this be prevented? Is hiring employees as much of a gamble as it appears?

Fortunately, most hiring mistakes can be prevented, and your hiring process does not need to be as big of a risk as you might think. When an organization makes a bad hire, it often goes back to the interview process and trying to figure out what it can do different in the interview that will prevent this from happening. In fact, in the March 2010 issue of CropLife®, we offered some of the questions we utilize to find things about your candidates that can easily be overlooked with typical questions. However, it’s not your interview process and the questions you ask that will be the key to your hiring: It’s what you do BEFORE the interview that will significantly reduce the risk of hiring the wrong employee.

Don’t Assume

Many interviewers naturally assume that a well-prepared candidate is probably the best employee. What most hiring managers fail to recognize is that a well-prepared person may not be the best candidate for the job, and a well prepared interviewer will rarely make that hiring mistake. There are three critical steps that you must take if you want to reduce the risk of hiring the wrong employee.

■ Define the key job responsibilities.
■ Set realistic role expectations.
■ Analyze the work environment.

Define the key job responsibilities. The first step in preventing a poor hiring decision is to first decide what skills and attributes a candidate must possess to be able to meet the minimum requirements of the job on their first day. The key here is “the first day.” If this position requires a person to be able to do specific tasks on Day One — then those qualities must be on the list. If there are activities that need to be accomplished in a few months, and you will have time to train them — then those qualities should not be on the list. Think about the day-to-day routines of this position and all of the skills and personal attributes that are necessary to do the job well. What you may discover is that you may be setting your initial bar too high, and by default, missing out on some excellent candidates that, with a little coaching, could be star performers down the road.

Set realistic role expectations. Many, if not most, of the reasons candidates leave positions after the first year is because either they or the position didn’t live up to expectations. Before you interview the first candidate, you must first define the results you expect from this position in the first week, the first month, the first quarter, and the first year. This is a very critical step that is often overlooked. This activity will ensure both the hiring manager and the candidate that there are expected benchmarks.

For example, it’s easy to say “we expect this sales territory to have a 10% increase in profit this year.” However, it’s much more difficult to lay out the expectations for four or more benchmarks prior to that! When you really analyze the situation, is an increase what you truly expect? If this hire is replacing a good employee that left the organization, your early goals are likely to be more focused on retention. If you are hiring a location manager to “make changes,” it’s easy to say you want someone to improve things and make the necessary changes — but what changes are you expecting in the first week, month, and quarter? Are you looking for someone to get the existing staff focused and pulling in the same direction, or do you want this person to tear things down and build it back up? The same goal — but two very different timelines and methods.

Establishing these goals ahead of time will help you determine which candidates have the best ability to hit these targets. In addition, the multiple goals enhance the likelihood that a manager can resolve any issues or concerns with positive coaching long before their frustration leads to departure or they are dismissed due to not meeting annual expectations.

Analyze the work environment. Take a good look at the prospective supervisor, co-workers, customers, and anyone else an employee in this position will regularly be working for or with. Is the supervisor a hands-on manager or do they coach from a distance? Are the customers in this market loyal/high relationship buyers or is this an area with very low market share? Are the co-workers aggressive and competitive or are they reserved?

The Keys To Success

Next, think about what characteristics are necessary for a person to succeed in this environment. Consider these rules of thumb:

■ If the hiring manager is “hands-off,” then the candidate must have a high level of independence, the ability to develop plans/strategies on their own, and have enough experience to do things without seeking a second opinion.
■ If the manager is hands-on, you need a candidate that enjoys a team environment; the kind of person that enjoys bouncing thoughts and ideas off of others, and organized enough to meet the supervisor’s style of reporting and observation.
■ In a high market share territory, the candidate will typically need to have an expressive or high relationship style to be successful. People with this style develop and maintain a high level of rapport and will offer a high level of customer service. People with this style are focused on making long-term relationships and don’t like the word “no.”
■ If the territory has a low market share, the candidate will need to have a driven personality that typically thinks very strategically and seeks the constant challenges that a low market share environment provides. They are driven by making new sales and don’t care how many times they hear the word “no.” They are, however, often perceived as aggressive and can seem “pushy” to long-term customers.

So to attract, hire, and keep the right employees, preparation ahead of time can not only save you the cost of a miss-hire, but more likely help you select a future employee that can hit the organization’s goals and meet your expectations.

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